It's time the Cubs give Mark Leiter Jr. a shot at closer

The Leit show has been lights out for the Cubs this season and needs to be the team's closer.
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

It's been a rocky start to the year for the Chicago Cubs in terms of production from the bullpen. Adbert Alzolay lost his role as closer before going to the IL, and Hector Neris has converted saves, but not without a panic attack nearly every time he steps on the mound. Though we expect the team to add to the roster via trade at some point this season, one in-house option they have to be given a chance as closer is Mark Leiter Jr.

Leiter's surface numbers, a 3.47 ERA, don't quite match Neris' 2.74 ERA, but there's much more to be revealed under the hood. Let's take a look at some numbers that stick out when comparing these two pitchers:


Leiter Jr.: 2.05
Neris: 4.47


Leiter Jr.: 1.24
Neris: 1.52


Leiter Jr.: 0.9
Neris: -0.2


Leiter Jr.: 31.0%
Neris: 18.8%


Leiter Jr.: 8%
Neris: 16.7%

Whiff %:

Leiter Jr.: 35.2% (96th percentile)
Neris: 20.4% (16th percentile)


Leiter Jr.: 2.83 (86th percentile)
Neris: 5.14 (bottom 14th percentile)

I hate saying it out loud, but Neris is overdue to get shelled for about five runs in an inning. Leiter's numbers are so far superior to Neris' that it's almost questionable why he has yet to be given a chance. Of course, Neris is the veteran reliever that you brought in for 9.0M, and although the analytics aren't pretty, you can't take away the fact that he's still getting the job done.

Still, it's hard to argue that Leiter Jr. isn't primed for the role. He was recently voted a top-five reliever in baseball, as his ability to get both left and right-handed hitters out makes him extremely valuable. His splitter alone has produced a run value of 4 after only one-third of the season, which carries a minuscule BAA of .054 and a video game-like 61.5 strikeout percentage.

One area of concern may be that Leiter Jr.'s marks in high-leverage spots could be better. His batting average against jumps to .270, but even those numbers are suspect, as a 1.91 FIP in high leverage suggests some bad luck in those spots. On the flip side, Neris' .130 BAA in high leverage looks easy on the eyes, but again, the 4.10 FIP in those spots tells another story. At the very least, Leiter Jr. needs to be the next in line for a shot as a closer. My prediction is he will be sometime before the season is over.

The Latest Cubs News & Rumors: